Ongoing research projects

The Viking Ship Museum investigates maritime cultural history on both national and international levels, conducting everything from basic to advanced research, using our collection as the starting point. The research potential of our underwater investigations and experimental archaeological projects was scrutinised and later applied to our research projects. Projects are often conducted in collaboration with other research institutions. 

The research projects conducted between 2015-2019 are aimed at providing substantial contributions to the Viking Ship Museum’s vision and plan for a new Viking Ship Museum focusing on Man, Ship and Sea in ancient and medieval times.  

Below you can find a list of selected ongoing research projects.

Prior to a large scale development project, the Viking Ship Museum conducted archaeological investigations in the Harbour of Køge, Denmark from 2014 to 2017. The extent of the development project gave a unique opportunity to investigate a large area containing a well preserved fossil landscape, which had been used intensively during the early Mesolithic. Under the thick sand and silt layers, a former course of a stream as well as a possible outlet were preserved. Along the shorelines, archaeological finds spanning a timeframe from the early Boreal to the mid-Atlantic period were found. This is a period of large climate and environmental change and with extensive coastline displacements.  The archaeological finds consist of large amounts of worked flint, the majority of which can be typologically dated to the Maglemose culture. Furthermore the remains of a self-caching fish-structure built from hazel and dated to the transition between the Maglemose and the Kongemoseculture was found. The well preserved and well documented landscape made it possible to reconstruct the prehistoric environment over time and model the local shoreline displacement – this gives a unique environmental context to the archaeological finds of the area.

 

External collaboration: Cathrine Jessen, National Museum of Denmark  

Outcome: International peer-reviewed article 

Project responsible: Curator Klara Fiedler 

In 1982, the Viking Ship Museum began its first Viking Age ship reconstruction of the 14 m long vessel, Skuldelev 3 ship-find. Over the next two years, Roar Ege, was built at the Museum boatyard and the Roar Ege Project marked the start of a process that would form the core of the Museum’s research endeavours: the experimental archaeological reconstruction of ship and boat finds. 

Roar Ege was launched in 1984 and the more than 30 years on the water have taken their toll on the ship. Roar Ege has undergone several major phases of repair – most recently in 2014. By spring 2016, the ship had deteriorated to such an extent that it was clear that Roar Ege’s sailing days were over. 

 

With Roar Ege’s retirement on land, its contribution to maritime experimental archaeological research now enters a new and vital phase. For the first time, we have a complete data set over the lifespan of a reconstructed Viking Age ship-find. The project  will present an object biography of Roar Ege and compare the biography to the evidence for repair on the original ship-find, Skuldelev 3. Hereby, exploring the potential this data has for developing an understanding of the prospective lifespan of Viking Age ships, and the materials and resources entailed in maintaining and repairing them throughout their active use.

Outcome: Peer-reviewed scientific articles

Project responsible: Curator Tríona Sørensen and team coordinator Martin Dael Rodevad        

The project description is only in Danish at the moment: 

I Norden er der en lang tradition for at sejle og ro i klinkbyggede både. Båden er i mere end 1000 år blevet brugt til fiskeri, vare- og persontransport, krig og lostjeneste. I de sidste 50 år er der sket et skift i brugen af den åbne båd. Båden, der før blev brugt til transport og fiskeri, er nu blevet til en fritidsbåd og bruges til kystfriluftsliv. I dag danner båden ramme for samvær, udfordring, læring, spænding, håndværksfordybelse, historie- kultur- og naturforståelse. Vikingeskibsmuseet har fået 1 millioner kroner fra Nordea-fonden til det 2-årige projekt 'Den klinkbyggede, åbne båd', der skal styrke miljøet omkring de traditionelle brugsbåde i Danmark, og bidrage til at skabe mere aktivitet langs de danske kyster. 

Outcome: Seminar and articles 

Projekt responsible: Head of Maritime Crafts and Reconstruction Søren Nielsen       

Project under development: 

No prehistoric era in Scandinavia is able to present such a vast number of ship motifs as the Bronze Age. They are found on bronzes and rock surfaces as well as in the shape of stone ship settings; they seem almost uncountable. The great importance of the ship symbol in Bronze Age art is evident, and this motif seems to be highly interwoven with the religious thinking of Man in this era. This is quite understandable as the Bronze Age in particular is characterized by the evolution of maritime networks, based on the growing need for metals and other long distance trading goods.This main role played by the ship in the pictorial world of the humankind is quite a paradoxical contrast to the absence of the vessel’s physical remains. From Scandinavia only a few archaeological finds of Bronze Age vessels are known. Mostly these are monoxylous logboats. Bronze Age logboats are also known from Western Europe, though in a more considerable number. From Britain a number of plank-built boats are known.

The Varpelev logboat from c. 1000 BC and found in Eastern Denmark is the most prominent among these rare Scandinavian finds. Its size alone tells about a careful selection of raw materials and a high level of craftsmanship along with a great potential for transporting goods and people. Since its excavation in 1973 the Varpelev boat existed rather anonymously in the local museum’s storage in decades. But after a detailed re-conservation of the boat-find it was entrusted to the collection of The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde in 2016. This research project will be the scientific framework for the future display of the boat in the Viking Ship Museum and the scientific results will be disseminated in the Viking Ship Museums international acknowledge research book series Ships and Boats of the North.

External collaboration: Senior Curator Ole Kastholm, ROMU.

Planned outcome: The Viking Ship Museums book series Ships and Boats of the North

Project responsible: Head of Maritime Archaeology, Research and Exhibitions Anne C. Sørensen and research coordinator Morten Ravn          

Project description is only in Danish at the moment:

I forbindelse med Vikingeskibsmuseets marinarkæologiske undersøgelser ved Kriegers Flak i Østersøen er flere nye skibsfund blevet lokaliseret. Som en del af lasten om bord på to af disse skibsfund er der fundet nogle karakteristiske glasflasker, der via deres morfologi og andre detaljer, muliggør en typologisk datering af skibsfundene til anden halvdel af 1700-tallet eller starten af 1800-tallet. Med udgangspunkt i skibsfundenes last af flasker fortæller dette projekt om østersøsøfart samt estisk glasproduktion i 1700-1800-tallet.   

 

Outcome: Danish peer-reviewed article   

Project responsible: curator Morten Johansen, curator Mikkel Thomsen and research coordinator Morten Ravn                 

Project description only in Danish at the moment: 

Skibsfund fra det 13. århundrede, der er så godt bevaret som vraget fra Kalverev Syd, er sjældne og er derfor af stor betydning for vores viden om udviklingen af det nordiske skib efter vikingetiden. l løbet af det 12. og 13. århundrede sker der gradvist en forandring inden for skibsbygningen, hvor vikingetidens lette og elegante fartøjsdesign blev fravalgt til fordel for et ønske om at øge mængden af last om bord. Det medførte forandringer i byggeteknikker og mulighed for at anvende råmaterialer, der ikke tidligere kunne anvendes til skibsbygning. Udgravningen af skibsvraget fra Kalverev Syd og den kommende detaljerede opmåling og analyse af skibsdelene vil være et væsentligt bidrag til belysning af en periode i den nordiske skibsbygningshistorie, der var kendetegnet ved markante teknologiske og samfundsmæssige forandringer. 

Outcome: Two international scientific articles (one is peer-reviewed)    

Project responsible: Curator Mikkel Thomsen  
 

Project description only in Danish at the moment:  

Vordingborgbåden er udgravet i oktober 2012. Bådfundet blev blotlagt i forbindelse med anlægsarbejde foretaget under genskabelsen af Vordingborg borgruins voldgrav. Bådens forreste ende var blevet beskadiget i forbindelse med dens opdagelse, men ellers var resten af fundet rimeligt bevaret. Særligt bagbord side, hvor næsten alle planker var bevarede op til essingen. Der er tale om en lille klinkbygget båd: ca. 6,0 m langt, 120 cm bredt og 45 cm dybt. Båden er årringsdateret til at være bygget omkring midten af 1300-tallet. Bådfundet er særligt interessant fund i forhold til at formidle den nordiske båds historie i middelalderen. I projektet indgår en færdig opmåling af båddelene samt en analyse og publicering af fundet og dets skibsteknologiske og kulturhistoriske kontekst.

External collaboration: Aoife Daly (Forskningsprojektet Timber ved Københavns Universitet), Arne Jouttijärvi (Heimdal archaeometry) og Lars Meldgaard Sass Jensen (Aarhus Universitet)                    

Outcome: Interntational peer-reviewed article     

Project responsible: Boatbuilder and scientific measuring technician Tom Nicolajsen and Research coordinator Morten Ravn   

Project under development: 

In this book, Morten Gøthche, investigates the history of the Faroese boat. Gøthche examines the building and use of the boat, and furthermore the significance this boat type had, and still has, in Faroese society.

Planned Outcome: Peer-reviewed monograph in the Viking Ship Museum’s book series Ships and Boats of the North.

Project responsible: Research Coordinator Morten Ravn

Project under development: 

This publication project describes the trial voyages from Roskilde to Dublin in 2007 and back again in 2008 with the Skuldelev 2 reconstruction, Sea Stallion from Glendalough. The book reflects on the experimental archaeological insights gained during the voyages, and these insights are subsequently compared with both archaeological and written evidence for Viking Age and High Medieval seafaring and society.

Planned outcome: Theme Book from the Viking Ship Museum.  

Project responsible: Director, Tinna Damgård-Sørensen 

In the past few years, the Viking Ship Museum has conducted underwater surveys with the use of mechanical excavators. This project present the approaches and experiences gained during the   sampling of submerged prehistoric sites in Roskilde Fjord, Storstrømmen (the strait between the islands of  Falster and Zealand) and Køge Harbour.       

Outcome: Peer-reviewed international article. 

Project responsible: Curator Klara Fiedler, curator Mikkel Thomsen and curator Morten Johansen   

This project explores the use of history to shape national identity in Denmark and the United States.  In the late nineteenth century, Denmark rediscovered and embraced the Vikings as a symbol of the Nordic past, and of Danish nationhood.  At the same time, the American cowboy emerged as a national figure in the United States. The similarities between Vikings and cowboys are interesting because Denmark and the United States differed so much in the late nineteenth century.  This study will produce one or more scholarly articles that compare the uses of Viking and cowboy images in defining nationhood; these articles will identify some of the big, shared ideas about nationhood and identity of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

External collaboration: Professor Sarah Elkind, Department of History, San Diego State University, USA.

Outcome: International peer-reviewed article 

Project responsible: Curator Louise Kæmpe Henriksen   

Project under development (at the moment the project description is only in Danish):

I Storstrømmen, i området mellem Vordingborg og Orehoved, er der i løbet af de seneste år undersøgt en række submarine lokaliteter med dateringer fra samtlige perioder af Ældre stenalder. Ælder stenalder i Danmark udgør en periode med meget store miljømæssige forandringer. Med ændringer i klima, flora, fauna og havniveau forvandles landskabet omkring Storstrømmen i løbet af denne periode fra en Senglacialt tundradal til et højproduktivt Atlantisk fjordlandskab omkranset tæt urskov. Det er formålet at undersøge og rekonstruerer landskabets udvikling/tilblivelseshistorie. Landskabet kan således fungere som kontekst for de arkæologiske lokaliteter, og udviklingen af landskab, miljø og klima, som baggrund og forståelsesramme for den kulturhistoriske udvikling som sker i løbet af perioden (dvs. gøre lokaliteterne til steder i landskabet og ikke bare til samlinger af oldsager).                               

External collaboration: Mikkel Sørensen (Copenhagen University), Kristoffer Buch Pedersen (Museum South-east Denmark) and National Museum of Denmark Further collaboration is beeing negotiated. 

Planned outcome: Conference and a peer-reviewed proceedings publiced in the Viking Ship Museum series Maritime Culture of the North.           

Project responsible: Curator Morten Johansen, curator Klara Fiedler and research coordinator Morten Ravn